It has been in his possession and travelled with him for the last 12 months but, today, Phil Mickelson will hand the Claret Jug back to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
The 43-year-old got his hands on the famous silverware at Muirfield last summer after, in words, finally figuring out how to play links golf.
It was the fifth major championship of his career and left him just a US Open victory short of completing the career grand slam. Suffice to say, then, he’s looking forward to defending his title at Royal Liverpool this week.
“It's special,” said Mickelson. “I'm going to savour it and enjoy it. I feel different now when the Open Championship comes up and I'm able to go there as a past champion, as opposed to a foreign player who has never been able to conquer links golf. I just go there with a whole different confidence level and enjoy the competition and the moment.
“I feel a lot less pressure to try to win it because I've already done it. That win last year is something that I will always cherish.”
Mickelson added that the validation of being an Open champion has relieved the pressure of competing in this year’s tournament.
"Playing in the Scottish was a great way to get ready for the Open Championship." - Phil Mickelson
“There's a fraction of the pressure that I felt before Open Championships from year sprior, because once you've already won it, once you have held the Claret Jug and have won, it just feels different,” he revealed. “You don't feel like you have to fight it. You don't have to force it.
“It's the same way with having won at Augusta. Everybody wants to win the Masters and don the Green Jacket and go back every year and, once you've done it, it just takes the pressure off coming down the back nine.”
Mickelson also remarked that playing in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen last week had been the perfect way to fine-tune his game ahead of this week. After finishing tied for 11th in his title defence in the North East, he said: “I feel a lot sharper than I did a week ago, and I think that playing in the Scottish was a great way to get ready for the Open Championship. It gave me an opportunity to work on my game and get sharper as the week went on, and also identify what I need to work on in the days leading up to the Open.”
Can Phil Mickelson defend his Open crown?
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